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Chris Christie Bypasses Press in Favor of Town Halls

Image: Chris Christie Bypasses Press in Favor of Town Halls
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By    |   Monday, 13 Apr 2015 09:44 AM

With his job approval numbers sagging, Chris Christie has shifted his focus away from holding once-common press conferences in favor of town hall meetings focused on engagement with voters, not reporters.

The last time Christie held an extended press conference was in November, according to The Associated Press.

"The access has just been minimal at best. And that's certainly a concern that's been expressed to me," George White, executive director of the New Jersey Press Association, told the AP.

White's concern about access to the New Jersey governor is shared by Walter Luers of the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government.

"This administration definitely exercises a lot of control over how information gets out in all avenues," said Luers, who believes Christie's decision to limit his press conferences is rooted in a desire to avoid any opportunity to make a gaffe.

"You can't risk having a gaffe that gets exploited in New Hampshire or Iowa," he argued.

Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts dismissed the notion that the governor is avoiding the press, pointing to his monthly appearances on his radio call-in show, as well as the 134 town hall meetings he has held since winning re-election.

Others, however, believe his focus on voter engagement is a recognition by Christie that any chance of remaining viable as a national candidate depends upon his ability to improve his approval ratings at home.

"It's necessary for him, but I don't know that it will be sufficient. There are already doubts about what the purpose is of Chris Christie being in this race," Rick Wilson, a Florida-based Republican media consultant, told Bloomberg in March about Christie's preference for town hall meetings.

The strategy may not be working as a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds 54 percent New Jersey-registered voters disapprove of the overall job Christie is doing as governor, while 41 percent approve his worst job disapproval to date.

Krista Jenkins, professor of political science and director of Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind survey research center, believes Christie must improve his standing at home to have any chance on the national stage.

"On everyone's mind these days is this central question: How can the governor run for the Republican nomination with voters back home largely unhappy with what they're seeing? Thankfully it's still early, and it remains to be seen how interested national voters are with what New Jerseyans think about their leader. If he's defined by his record, these numbers will make an already difficult journey harder," said Jenkins.

The FDU survey center's March poll found 35 percent approving of Christie's job performance, compared with 51 percent who said they disapprove, which was the lowest approval and highest disapproval for the governor in the survey's history.

According to the RealClearPolitics average of GOP presidential polls, Christie resides at the back of the pack with 5.5 percent support, just behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who was to formally announce his presidential intentions Monday.

This week, Christie will take his town hall show on the road to New Hampshire on Wednesday and Friday, reports The Wall Street Journal.

"That in my mind is the only path to victory that Chris Christie has: stripped down, person by person, town by town," Jamie Burnett, Mitt Romney's New Hampshire political director, told the paper.

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With his job approval numbers sagging, Chris Christie has shifted his focus away from holding once-common press conferences in favor of town hall meetings focused on engagement with voters, not reporters.
Chris Christie, press, New Jersey, town halls
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2015-44-13
Monday, 13 Apr 2015 09:44 AM
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